Power of One: Is teamwork over-hyped and under-rewarded?



power of one


M. Rajagopal


Typical job descriptions seem to come out of an assembly line and one sees plenty of these in my line of work.

Some standard phrases seem to pass the test of acceptability. One such is that of ‘being a good team player’ regardless of the job in question. In a lighter vein, presumably they don’t want a sociopath on their hands, regardless of his other stellar qualities!

However are people really interviewed or appraised on the job on this quality? Or is it just lip service? It depends on the cultural milieu prevalent. The Japanese, for example, have very clearly worked towards group rewards and it has worked well for them for a long time. However for those of us brought up in a more Western management environment where the winner takes all, this is almost anathema.

Look at the facts and the legends surrounding your organization and environment. Do you see Team A or B being lauded or is it a bunch of individuals who corner all the glory and rewards? You will have your answers. Yet we will continue to mention this trait of ‘working well in teams’ as a requirement for all roles.

Certainly some of the best inventors, salesmen, visionaries, leaders etc are individualistic, even egotistical, in their drive and passion and they are the ones who create the beachheads and breakthroughs. They dare to go where more of us fear to tread to avoid failure and ridicule. They are not interested in the approval of others. Whether they fail or succeed, it is spectacular.

So if you are or were running a young organization today, what kind of people will you seek out and promote? Or do you have the bandwidth to manage both types of people seamlessly towards to a bigger goal for your organization? This tightrope is not easy to walk but future organizations may well have to do this to succeed.

The oft-mentioned Millennials entering and taking important roles within organizations is an element influencing this, as are inherent social and business environments. Very few young organizations today can afford the amount of time and deliberation before decision making that earlier, larger organizations had the luxury of doing. Business today does move at the speed of thought. For them, long consensus meetings and endless email or paper trails may be as relevant as the dinosaurs today. However there should still be space for people to pool in their ideas and thoughts through other means, so some apex group can pick the best of these and take them forward quickly.

Many of you would have differing opinions on this topic and I would certainly like to hear them here. As practicing managers, what approaches and systems have worked for you and what haven’t is interesting learning for all us. Please do mention the context of the organization so these ideas and opinions have a framework.

You can write to be here with your comments and connect with me on LinkedIn or on twitter@rexraj

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